Second motion filed to drop Punta Gorda chief’s fatal shooting charge

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Former Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis.

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. For the second time in two months, Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis is fighting to have his charge related to a fatal 2016 citizens academy shooting dropped.

Stephen Romine, Lewis’ attorney, filed a second motion to have a culpable negligence charge dropped, arguing that the officer who fired the fatal shot broke department protocol.

A similar motion was denied by 20th Circuit Court Judge Devin George in May, who described it as “moot.”

“When it comes to culpable negligence, he has to choose to commit a crime,” Romie argued in court on Friday. “From the evidence alone his intent is not ‘I think someone is going to load live bullets in it.’ It’s ‘we have blanks. We gave them to you. That’s what you’re going to use.'”

Lewis was charged for failing to implement sufficient safety protocols during an August 2016 “shoot, don’t shoot” exercise at the police station, prosecutors said.

Former Punta Gorda police officer Lee Coel shot and killed Mary Knowlton during the exercise.

Coel, who recently had his termination appeal denied, is charged with first-degree felony manslaughter.

A judge is expected to decide on the second motion next week. If denied, jury selection begins on June 23.

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